A bridge between Christian fundamentalism and secular liberalism

Like so many of us who were raised in the hypocrisies of a doctrine driven faith, Andrew Himes left his church behind by the time he was out of high school. But as the oldest grandson of John R. Rice, one of America’s most famous Christian fundamentalists, his “born again” narrative would haunt him for more than three decades. “The Sword of the Lord – The Roots of Fundamentalism in an American Family” is Himes’ attempt to understand the religious values that shaped his early life and how those same forces have carved up the American political landscape that we occupy today.

Himes first pulled away from his Southern Baptist family by passionately opposing the Vietnam War and joining the civil rights movement in the late 1960s. His hard core activism eventually led to unquestioned trust in the tenants of radical communism. But by the time his grandfather passed away in 1980, Himes had come to recognize that he had given up one brand of fundamentalism for another. For the next 30 years he’d delve deep into his family roots in search of the core meaning of Christianity itself.

“The Sword of the Lord” traces Himes’ family history from his ancestors’ immigration to America and into their exodus from Missouri during the Civil War. There he begins to examine the role of the war on his great grandfather’s conversion to the Baptist church, including how southern resentment toward the end of slavery would influence the fundamental doctrines of the church and the evangelical messages of John R. Rice.

Each chapter begins with brief accounts of Himes’ personal journey, many of which describe his youthful exuberance to become a preacher like his grandfather. Along the way he recalls the seeds that would eventually bloom into full fledged rebellion and estrangement from his family. Each of these stories offers the reader the chance to feel Himes’ personal bond to an important chapter in American history.

Andrew Himes brings us uniquely qualified insights about Christian fundamentalism in America in such a way that secular liberals might find compassionate understanding about a rigid moralistic movement we know little about. And like the great peacemakers of other generations, he dares imagine an even greater reconciliation between the dogmatic riddled ideologies at war in the world today.